Posts Tagged ‘understanding horses’

 

Monty’s Special Training Clinic Daily Journal

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

 

Day 1, Monty’s Special Training

A super group representing horse lovers from about 10 countries came to Flag Is Up Farms for an educational experience spanning 5 days. On this first day of the clinic, I worked with Liger, a beautiful Arabian gelding destined for high achievements in endurance. The 3-year-old starter is owned by Heather and Jeremy Reynolds. He bucked like a kangaroo with the saddle but settled to a beautiful ride. Later I worked with a fine Arabian mare who did not want to be caught in the field. We also had a classic Join-Up with Trigger and much more fun and fascination on Flag Is Up Farms. Here is Liger on the long lines:
 
 
 

Day 2

We used a dummy rider before we introduced a live rider to our starter horse. In today’s session, Certified Instructors Denise Heinlein and Courtney Dunn demonstrated my concepts with Liger. Shopping bags, dummy rider and flapping legs helped this young horse become accustomed to a rider. Many older and more experienced horses would be challenged by plastic bags and floppy legs, but working in a low-adrenaline and safe environment supported Liger in his training. This horse has a wonderful mind and the demonstration was highly educational.
 
Liger on Day 2, outfitted with a dummy rider and plastic bags, ready to go to work with Certified Instructor Courtney Dunn

Liger on Day 2, outfitted with a dummy rider, is ready to go to work with Certified Instructor Courtney Dunn

 

Day 3

We began the horse work at the Untouched Horse Gentling Facility at Flag Is Up Farms. The broodmare in the video below was an older rescue with little prior handling. Certified Instructor Denise Heinlein excelled at timing and patience to bring this mare to a more peaceful place to end the session on. More on handling tomorrow.

 
 
 

Day 4

Today was a day made in heaven if you love horses and appreciate the ability to offer them a better life. We started with mounting block lessons – one of the most vulnerable times in a rider’s moments with a horse. After that, a rescued Paint took many skeptical moments before we were able to achieve a Join-Up and Follow-Up with this wonderful horse, literally on its way to the feedlot. It was emotional. Then, another session with the endurance Arabian, Liger, this time with a buddy horse in preparation for his first trip outside the Round Pen tomorrow. Lastly Ada Gates demonstrated some life-saving trims for your horse’s feet.
 
desensitization
 

Day 5

Our last day was the culmination of so many wonderful training sessions. I was overwhelmed by the acceptance of the horses and the appreciation the students had for how far the horses had come. Starters, remedials and even babies taught us many things and gave us great moments to remember for a lifetime. Thank you to the MRILC Team of Instructors and all our staff for the super job creating an environment in which the student can learn. We hope to see you at Flag Is Up Farms next year!
 
~ Monty
 
Here is young Liger on his 5th day as a riding horse, right on track!

Here is young Liger on his 5th day as a riding horse, right on track!

 

 

How sensitive is your horse?

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
Question:
My horse is very sensitive in the flank and the stifle area. When I am grooming her, she seems to get very angry. She puts her ears back and even acts as though she would kick me. When I brush or touch her in the area of the flank or the stifle, she moves her hips toward me and not away. If I push harder, she pushes much harder against me. She has pinned me up against the wall several times and it’s very frightening. What should I do, Mr. Roberts? My instructor says that I should not go into her stall without a whip. I don’t want to whip her, but I don’t want her to hurt me either. There must be a solution to this problem. Can you help me? Sincerely, “Extremely Frightened!”
  
Monty’s Answer:    
Thank you for your inquiry. This is actually a subject near and dear to my heart. This is the pattern of behavior that causes so much trouble with horses in the starting stalls in racing. There are rails inside the stalls which jut out toward the horse. They are there to protect the feet of the jockey but in my opinion, they cause more trouble than they save. The horse that is sensitive in the flanks and stifles will go ‘into pressure’ particularly if its applied to that area of their body. I have maintained for most of my adult life that horses are ‘into pressure’ animals. It is the same phenomenon as we see in the human baby as they bring in new teeth. 
 
The gums are irritated and the child gets comfort from pressing hard on them typically from a teething ring. The horse has survived, in part, because they have learned to go into the sharp pain of a dog biting in the region of the flank. If the horse should run away the dog would simply rip the flesh allowing the intestines to exit the body and the dog makes a successful kill. Survival of the fittest has caused horses to behave with an ‘into pressure’ pattern of dealing with sharp pain. One must use soft grooming brushes on this type of horse and be very careful about staying out of the kick zone. It is essential that we treat this area carefully.
 
You have probably trained your horse to move off pressure without even knowing it. While riding, you will put a leg against your horses side and when the horse moves off the leg, you remove the pressure. You have probably done this on both sides of your horse. Most likely, when your horse was ridden only a few times, there was a tendency to move into the rider’s leg and not away from it. Eventually however your horse learned it was better to move away from the leg. At this present time I have some experiments going on which may prove to be a help with the very problem that you have described. It is to see if we can teach the horse to move off pressure in the area of the flanks. 
 
In order to alter this behavior, I have asked that a soccer ball be attached to the end of a strong bamboo pole. I have asked that the pole be about 6 feet long (2 meters). The ball is actually taped onto the end of the stick, covered with sponge and more tape applied… any way to cause the bamboo stick to be safe when pushed against the horses flanks. I direct the handler to press the ball into the area of the flanks, and stay with it if the horse pushes back. After a few minutes of work, most horses will step away experimenting with how to get the pressure off the ball in the flank. With the slightest step away the handler will remove the ball immediately, releasing all pressure.
 
The reason for the large ball is so that the horse feels no sharp pain. After removing the ball the handler should proceed to the other side and repeat the process. When one can achieve behavior that is immediately off pressure instead of into pressure, you’re well on your way to a successful alteration of deeply imbedded behavioral patterns. Having accomplished this you will be safer to groom, open gates more easily and even have better flying lead changes than you could achieve prior to training your horse to move off pressure even when it’s in the flank area. It is still early in this experimentation, but I think I am the first person to set up this kind of trial. 

After making sure that your horse has no physical ailments, the next step is to desensitize that area. As a point of interest, people who imprint their foals and have aspirations to train them to be performance horses, do not desensitize this area. They leave this area naturally sensitive so that cues can be given by the rider.

 

December 4, 2010: Understanding the Needs of Horses

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Often, when I see people working with horses, it seems clear to me why a horse might be confused. We humans are far from perfect at understanding the mind of a species whose behavioral patterns are so far removed from our own. I wish I could live another hundred years because I believe we will ‘get it’ much better as time progresses. I often watch horses migrate through a road map of understanding as I do my work. I feel as though many of them would like to come back to me a month or so after a training session and say, ‘Now I know why you persistently asked me to do something that seemed scary to me at the time. I can handle it now.’

The horse training principles that I practice and share with you focus on the nature of the horse and meeting his needs, rather than simply citing the needs of the human and setting out to make the horse conform to them. I would like each one of you to eliminate the phrase ‘make the horse’ from your vocabulary. Many decades of working with these wonderful animals have shown me the value of bringing the horse to want to do what you are asking of him, not demanding it of him through force.

There is a movement on this earth of ours to understand horses better and to treat them in a far more reasonable way than we have in the past. I congratulate those who seek information and live up to their responsibility to learn as much as they can about the horses they admire. You are the ‘doers’ in this industry, seeking answers to improve your understanding of, and relationship with, the horses we have come to love. Many people know by now that my life’s goal is to leave the world a better place than I found it, for horses and for people too. You know that I cannot do it by myself. Each of you will realize that if we are to succeed in becoming better partners with our horses, it will take a family of individuals who care. You can be part of that family.

– Monty Roberts

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